Man walks free after killing wife in bad dream

A man who strangled his wife during a nightmare in the belief he was attacking an intruder walked free from court today after the case against him was withdrawn.

Brian Thomas, 59, of Neath, South Wales, killed his wife Christine, 57, while they were holidaying in West Wales in July 2008.

At Swansea Crown Court today the prosecution told the jury that it was no longer seeking a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity and that there would be no purpose in sending Thomas to a psychiatric hospital.

The court erupted into shouts of "yes" as family members jubilantly greeted the outcome today.

Their reaction came after Paul Thomas QC, the prosecutor, explained the situation to the jury after yesterday's day-long adjournment in proceedings.

"We are no longer seeking a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity," Mr Thomas told the jury.

"We have a continuing duty to review the case and we took the opportunity yesterday to take stock of the situation.

"It is clear from the evidence that no useful purpose would be served by Mr Thomas being detained in a psychiatric hospital."

Iwan Jenkins, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Dyfed Powys, said: "This has been a unique case with a unique set of circumstances.

"We have a duty to keep cases under continuous review, and following expert evidence from a psychiatrist it was suggested no useful purpose would be served by Mr Thomas being detained and treated in a psychiatric hospital, which would be the consequence of a special verdict in this case.

"Once it was raised, the CPS had a duty to review the case and decided that, guided as we must be and have been throughout this case by the views of the experts, the public interest would no longer be served by continuing to seek a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

"The consequences of such a finding would have meant Mr Thomas' detention in a psychiatric hospital, but it is now clear that the psychiatrists feel that that would serve no useful purpose and the risk of reoccurrence is very, very small. We therefore have offered no further evidence and asked the jury to return a simple verdict of not guilty."

He added: "Our thoughts remain with the family of Brian and Christine Thomas who have remained dignified throughout this difficult time."

High Court Judge Justice Davis KT, told Thomas that in the eyes of the law he bore no responsibility for what he had done.

He described him as a "decent man and devoted husband".

He said that from his understanding of his character from what had come out in court he may go away with a sense of guilt about what happened but he underlined a second time: "In the eyes of the law you bear no responsibility for what happened."

Raymond Thomas, the brother of Brian, spoke of his relief and jubilation at the outcome today as he left court.

"Family and friends are truly delighted by the outcome today.

"They were a loving couple and always like that together.

"He has always been a loving husband and a family man.

"This was a tragic, tragic episode and we are all very emotional."

He added: "It is like one psychiatrist has said, this was a perfect storm. My brother is a decent man."

During the brief trial at Swansea Crown Court, there was intensive interest in details of the case across the world.

It opened on Tuesday with jurors hearing that Mr Thomas accepted that he had killed his wife of 40 years, who had also been his childhood sweetheart.

They were told that psychiatrists for the prosecution and the defence agreed that he suffered from a long-standing sleep disorder and he had been in a state of automatism at the time.

That meant that while he was asleep his mind was not in control of what his body was doing.

The tragic death of his wife happened in July last year when the couple had travelled 60 miles to Aberporth in West Wales in their Peugeot camper van.

They stopped for the night in a car park but were disturbed by boy racers doing wheel spins and handbrake turns.

As a result they moved to a pub car park for the rest of the night.

But Mr Thomas, who took medication for depression, had stopped taking his tablets some time before the holiday.

The couple, who had separate bedrooms at their home in Neath, planned to be "intimate" while on holiday.

Mr Thomas had stopped his medication because one of the side-effects was that it made him impotent.

Expert evidence during the trial, however, suggested that he would have suffered worsening dreams and nightmares as a result of the withdrawal symptoms he would be experiencing.

In a nightmare probably triggered by the earlier incident with the boy racers, Mr Thomas believed an intruder had broken into the couple's camper van.

During the violent nightmare he attacked and fought the intruder and got him in a headlock - only to wake and find he had strangled his wife.

Due to the highly unusual nature of the case the prosecution had been seeking a "special verdict" of not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

The alternative to that was a simple not guilty verdict.

Expert evidence from both sides previously made it clear that there was no purpose in sending Mr Thomas to a psychiatric hospital.

Therefore, today the jury was instructed by Justice Davis to bring in a formal not guilty verdict and Mr Thomas was freed after being held in custody since January.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower